Over a period of years, I received a series of five special gifts from five United Methodist pastors.
What fascinated me was that all five pastors said, "I saw this in a shop and thought of you." Each gift was a beautiful rosary. One was made of coffee beans, another of Irish stones and three were typical beads.
To this day I have never determined why my five friends and colleagues thought of me when they saw the rosaries.
A rosary is not traditionally associated with the protestant branch of God's family. Since my first conclusion was the Holy Spirit was working through my friends, I started to ask additional questions and search for additional answers.
My searching led me to the Bible where I read the accounts related to Mary. In the gospels, we are introduced to Mary at the annunciation. Then Mary visits Elizabeth, who gives Mary a blessing and identifies her as "the Mother of my Lord." In the second chapter of Luke, we find Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem where Mary gives birth to Jesus. Luke also tells us that the holy family was visited by the shepherds. The birth story concludes with Mary pondering the events.
In several places, Luke tells us that Mary pondered the events or she treasured the events in her heart. Upon additional reflection of these passages, I realized that God was calling me to give more time and attention to pondering.
Pondering is not an activity that is rewarded in our society.
Years ago, the Washington Post arranged for a world famous violinist to position himself at a busy Metro Station and play his Stradivarius violin. Hidden cameras were positioned to record the response of the passing people. Upon study, they discovered very few people stopped to listen to the music. The rest rushed past the violinist. A few days earlier, the same violinist packed a major concert hall with people who paid dearly to hear this same person play the same instrument.
Could it be that we have forgotten the need to stop and smell the roses? After all, we admire people who accomplish great things or people we can describe as hard workers. Pondering appears to be idleness or laziness.
Through my mother's family I learned the importance of pondering. My mother grew up in a typical Appalachian farm house with several fireplaces. Every Sunday afternoon, the family gathered at the farm house to visit parents, grandparents and one another. Winter afternoons were spent in front of a fireplace or a warm morning stove. I remember long periods of silence and every one feeling very comfortable with the silence.
How many of us have a quiet place for pondering? Remember, Jesus taught us that when we pray we are to go to a closet and pray. The gospels tell us that often Jesus retreated to the wilderness. Closets and wilderness areas are great places to ponder.
How many of us have a regular time to ponder? Pondering does reduce our stress levels and strengthens us to live life more fully. Most of all pondering enables us to reflect upon our ordinary events and experiences. It is during these reflections that we begin to discover that God is not remote but deeply involved in our lives. I find that to be the message of God who came to us through a child born in Bethlehem.